In Pakistan, phone calls are being intercepted without any authorization or permission from the court. The Ministry of IT and Telecom on Monday informed the Senate Committee on Delegated Legislation that this issue should not be taken seriously as this action is practiced worldwide.
This statement shows how misguided the Ministry is on this issue. Mohammad Daud Khan Achakzai of the Awami National Party (ANP), the chair of Senate Committee, corrected the ministry stating that in other countries, permission of the court is required to officially intercept phone calls.
However in Pakistan phone calls are frequently being intercepted without following any rules and law. Moreover, people are also being blackmailed over the contents of their conversation which was illegally obtained.
The members of the Senate committee were meeting to discuss an amendment to the Pakistan Telecom Act 1996 which would allow the Special Communication Organisation (SCO) to launch mobile phone services across the country.
The members also believe that the foreign telecom companies can also access to phone calls. Mudassar Hussain, telecom member from the Ministry said that the interception of phone calls was not a violation of the law as some intelligence agencies were allowed to do it. He stated:
“In the case of a murder, the calls of the suspects are intercepted. Moreover, agencies such as the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) can intercept calls to ensure national security. Telecom companies are bound to provide the facility at their own expense and it is not a violation of the law.”
The telecom companies or any other official needs court’s permission to intercept any call of the mobile phone user with the exception of one agency.
Is it pertinent to mention here that the phone tapping without a court order violates Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973.
It is an alarming situation and a wake-up call for the regulators to take notice of this situation and ensure that all the legalities are being followed.
If unchallenged, these actions can have serious consequences where the Pakistani government can carry out mass surveillance without any regard to privacy of citizens.